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How to Get an Airline Upgrade

No cash? No miles? No worries. Wangle your way into a better seat with sky travel-savvy tips.


  • Step 1: Get bumped Get bumped if your flight is oversold, a very common occurrence. It means you'll take a later flight, get significant credit with the airline, and possibly be upgraded to a better seat for free.
  • Step 2: Book directly Book directly with the airline by phone or with a travel agent and ask to have an "OSI" code added to your passenger record, which means "other significant information." If your job is impressive enough, they may opt to move you on up.
  • Step 3: Scour websites Scour websites like eBay and travel sites to find first class fares at severely discounted prices. Read all the fine print before purchasing, and follow all the rules that come with the ticket.
  • Step 4: Book and arrive early Book an early flight, arrive early, and check for available upgrades at check in, which may be available for a small fee. Agents are less harried early on and may look kindly upon your request.
  • TIP: Always ask nicely. Demands for upgrades are never well received.
  • Step 5: Elicit sympathy Elicit sympathy from the gate agent if you're late for a connecting flight or have been otherwise inconvenienced by the airline. They want your business and may upgrade you to keep you coming back.
  • Step 6: Board late Arrive at the gate early, but be the last to board. Agents are scanning for upgrades at that time.
  • TIP: Dress well, preferably in a suit or nice dress. If you look first class, you're more likely to get first class.
  • Step 7: Ask the flight attendant Ask the flight attendant if you can be moved up. Know that they can only move you if your seat is broken or you have a problem with the person sitting next to you. And, yes, body odor is a legitimate problem.
  • FACT: American Airlines was the first airline to introduce a frequent flyer program in 1981.

You Will Need

  • Flexible travel schedule
  • Impressive job
  • Early flight and early check-in
  • Sympathetic excuse
  • Broken seat or problem neighbor
  • Politeness (optional)
  • Suit or nice dress (optional)

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